Reflections on RFK, and a brush with history

We’ve seen and read a lot about the 2016 US presidential campaign, and most of it is dispiriting.  My mind has wandered back recently to 1968 where serious issues were tackled by serious candidates in both parties.  Campaigns attacked the issues of 1968 head-on with passion and eloquence.  Like today, it was a campaign no one could have predicted months before and it is a campaign I have revisited many times thanks to my family’s own fleeting connection to RFK during the Oregon primary.

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This autographed campaign poster adorns my office wall, as it did my father’s. Signed by RFK at the Portland Zoo, May 24, 1968. Also signed by Astronaut John Glenn (faded ballpoint).

Senator Robert F. Kennedy sat on the sidelines in late 1967 and early 1968, unwilling to challenge President Lyndon B. Johnson for the Democratic nomination.   As the Vietnam war deepened during LBJ’s presidency, so did RFK’s opposition but he did not want to be the object of polarization by taking on a sitting president with whom there was mutual enmity.  Instead, Senator Eugene McCarthy (Minnesota) took on the mantle of the anti-war movement and challenged LBJ in the New Hampshire primary, finishing second but succeeding in exposing the President’s vulnerability.  McCarthy was one of those Democrats who caught fire on college campuses and with righteous liberals, like Bernie Sanders.

With a  split in the party now wide open, RFK decided to join the race, launching a frenetic, relentless campaign that would last 82 days.

Within weeks of RFK’s campaign launch, LBJ shocked the nation by announcing he would not stand for re-election.  From March 31st on, RFK was locked in battle with two Minnesotans – the insurgent McCarthy and the establishment choice Vice-President Hubert Humphrey – for delegates to the 1968 Democratic convention to be held in Chicago.

Attacked for his opportunism by McCarthy, and resented by President Johnson and the incumbent Democratic Party establishment, RFK had a difficult path.  He was 42-years old and seen as ruthless and ambitious.  He brought the powerful Kennedy machine, the emotional punch of his brother’s unfulfilled presidency, but most importantly, he brought a fervent passion that matched the temper of the times.

His campaign was launched on the fly.  It did not have a corporate headquarters in Brooklyn or Chicago like the major campaigns of today.  Rather, it was launched out of a cannon, heading to states where primaries were being held and where he still had time to get on the ballot.

Some of the initial events were in Kansas, hardly what we would think of today as fertile Democratic soil, yet 15,000 students jammed the field house at Kansas State University to hear him speak about Vietnam, race, and poverty.  He spoke, he took questions, there were hecklers, there was give and take. He was greeted by throngs at airports and parking lots by people with handmade signs.  He went out of his way to speak on Indian reservations – it was a priority for him, even if it defied conventional political calculus.  His campaign was followed by teams of print reporters following his utterances.  The reporters would know when to board the campaign train or bus as almost every campaign speech closed with a quote from George Bernard Shaw, “There are those that look at things the way they are, and ask why? I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

Then, as the campaign turned into April, surprise struck again.  On April 4th, Reverend Martin Luther King was struck down by an assassin’s bullet.  It so happened that RFK was heading toward a rally in Indianapolis where about 1,000 were gathered, mostly from the black community.  When he mounted the platform, he realized that they had not yet heard the news – no text messages or Facebook posts announced the news in those days.  In what was one of his greatest moments he addressed the crowd, without notes, preaching against hatred, lawlessness, and violence, instead pleading for love, wisdom, and compassion.  He spoke about the loss of Rev. King and speaking of the loss of his own brother by an assassin’s bullet.  He quoted Greek philosophers.  This was a man with considerable reach, to draw upon the words in the most volatile of moments.  The video below is riveting.

Indiana was pivotal for RFK.  It was not a natural constituency for his campaign.  The Governor ran as a ‘favourite son’ candidate and had been the proxy for LBJ.  He was backed by the major newspapers which ran negative Kennedy stories incessantly.  McCarthy was also on the ballot and had his constituency of anti-war Democrats and college students.  RFK stitched together a coalition of working-class whites and the black community, while tailoring his message to resonate with Indiana’s inherent conservative values.  By the end of the Indiana campaign, the Kennedy motorcade would slowly drive through towns waving to crowds on the side of the road.  His body-man would spend the entire day kneeling on the convertible’s back seat holding Kennedy while he leaned forth to shake hands.  The campaign threaded the needle and the primary was won.  Where JFK had settled on West Virginia as the narrative bedrock for his successful campaign, Indiana took on that role for RFK.

The campaign ultimately led to Oregon, a key primary state voting May 28th, one week before the massive California primary.  Back in 1968, with fewer primary states, the California primary was extremely important, unlike today when the presidential primaries are essentially wrapped up by June.

The Kennedy campaign struggled in Oregon.  It did not generate the passion and enthusiasm seen in other places.  Crowds were polite and calm.  Things were a little too good in Oregon to be ruffled by the anxiety and anger seething in other places in America.  Senator McCarthy had traction and RFK was having difficulty keeping pace.

This is where the McDonald family from Haney, BC enters the picture.  My father, Peter, organized (or rather, schemed) a family vacation down to Portland to coincide with the Oregon primary.  The McDonald family (my parents, three sisters, and brother) crossed paths with the Kennedy family at the Portland Zoo on May 25, 1968.

I have heard the stories many times over the years from my parents and my older siblings. Their recollections provide an innocent glimpse into presidential campaigning in stark contrast to the events that unfolded a week later.

My siblings have remarked that the zoo wasn’t very busy that day and access to RFK was fairly easy – security was present, but not intrusive.  There were handshakes and photos while the Kennedy family walked about the zoo.  My sister Julia recalls that RFK said to her, “Is this your autograph book little girl?”  She responded, “Yes.  We live in Canada, but if we lived in the United States, my Dad would vote for you.” Family lore also suggests that my brother, Ian, was kissed on the forehead by RFK.  Here are some McDonald family photos:

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Ethel Kennedy in foreground, RFK chatting with voters (Julia McDonald scrapbook collection)

Not only was the Kennedy family campaigning, so was famous astronaut John Glenn.  Glenn, who died this week at age 95, signed autographs and urged support for Kennedy.  My sisters remember him as a class act.

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My father collected my sisters together to meet Glenn.  He asked where they were from and when hearing they were from Canada, my sister Julia recalls that he said he enjoyed hunting in Canada.  Julia says that my mother’s recollection is that he told them to
study Science but attributes that to motherly-spin.

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A great UPI photo of the Kennedy’s framed by a cooperative elephant. Michigan scholar Paul Lee notes that RFK has a rose pinned to his lapel, in honour of Portland – the “City of roses”

At some point, Kennedy was on the move toward the train that runs through the zoo.  My father managed to get alongside him while they were on a staircase heading in that direction.  Here is my dad, 35 years old, and having spent the 1960s as a very active volunteer for the Liberal Party.  He was switched-on to politics, big time.  He avidly followed the campaigns of Stevenson-Eisenhower, Nixon-JFK, Pearson-Diefenbaker, and was a delegate to the Convention that elected Pierre Trudeau.  He managed campaigns, served as municipal councillor, and would soon be a provincial candidate.  Add to that the atmosphere of upheaval in the US with the Vietnam War, the assassination of Martin Luther King a month earlier, and the rising voice of Baby Boomer student protest… What a moment!

So, here he was, Pete from Haney, on the stairwell with RFK.   Family folklore advises me that the following happened.

Peter: “Senator Kennedy, I’m a big fan of yours… I’m from Canada”.

RFK: “Who the F8#k caahhhhhs”.

That may not be verbatim, but it’s close.  RFK could be a little impatient.

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RFK in front row with John Glenn and Ethel Kennedy

Despite this terse brush off (well, it can be argued my Dad was in the way of actual Oregon voters),  RFK and his family continued to the train with the McDonald family, undeterred, in hot pursuit.  My family boarded the same zoo train as the Kennedy’s.  As the train went around a bend, Ethel leaned out and looked backwards and waved to may family’s car near the back of the train.  My sister Sara, then 11 years old, said “It felt like she was waving at us and we waved back.  It was a big deal!”  As the train slowly made its way around the zoo, it was about to collide with another force – the McCarthy campaign.

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Senator Eugene McCarthy

Senator McCarthy came to the zoo looking to challenge RFK to a debate.  McCarthy was leading in the primary and had RFK on the defensive.  As the train came to a stop, nervous Kennedy aides briefed their candidate that McCarthy was on the prowl and seeking a confrontation.  An alert family member heard RFK say, “Let’s get the F*#k out of here”.  My mother, Helen, recollects that the Kennedys literally disappeared in a cloud of dust, bodies everywhere sprinting to their motorcade.  Sister Sara remembers Kennedy supporter Rafer Johnson, a US Olympian, scooping up Ethel and running with her in his arms to the motorcade and “threw her (as in really threw her)” into the car.

McCarthy missed Kennedy but jumped on the media bus, which was still parked at the curb, and took full advantage of the hasty departure by holding court with the national press.  McCarthy went on to defeat Kennedy in the Oregon primary on May 28, 1968.

The McDonald family, no doubt exhilarated by this brush with fame and power, finished up its brief Oregon vacation and headed north up the I-5 back to sleepy Haney.  A week later, they awoke to the news that Robert Kennedy had been slain in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after triumphing in the June 4th California primary.  My mother recalls my then 7-year old sister, Sylvia, saying, “But how can he be dead when he was so alive?”

Six months after the assassination, Ethel Kennedy gave birth to her daughter Rory, on December 12th, 1968.  My mother gave birth to me the next day on December 13th.  Born hours apart, worlds apart, but connected for a few brief moments on the campaign trail at the Portland Zoo.

Unlike me, Rory did not have the privilege of knowing a father.  And America will never know what could have become of the unfulfilled promise of Robert F. Kennedy, president or otherwise.

** UPDATE ** 

Since writing my blog post, I had the honour of receiving correspondence from Paul Lee, a scholar based in Highland Park, Michigan.  Paul writes that he is working on a book on Bobby Kennedy’s “remarkable relationship” with non-“white” peoples.  In his words, he is making the “critical interpretation of archival/historical photos, videos and sound recordings” a major part of his research.

He kindly forwarded additional information from that day at the Portland Zoo, including a 41-second black and white video and the UPI photo shown above.  The video includes the visit from Senator McCarthy.

Paul brought to my attention that it was US Olympian Rafer Johnson who scooped up Ethel and carried her to the motorcade to evade Senator McCarthy.  Our family recollection was that it was Rosey Grier, but I have corrected the record above thanks to Paul’s research.

I have been asked about the curt exchange between RFK and my father.  This was considered out of character.  However, having known my mother for 48 years, I am pretty certain that she has the straight goods on this one.  It seems Bobby was just having a bad day… it happens!

Thanks to Paul for his contributions.  He has various RFK videos posted on his YouTube channel.

News Coverage (thanks to Paul Lee):

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The Aftermath:

Old newspapers from June 1968: the Vancouver Sun, the Vancouver Province, and Life Magazine:

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Kennedy campaign brochure:

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More Background:

Video: Kennedy and Glenn on the hustings in Oregon with a voiceover of one of Kennedy’s famous speeches during the campaign:

There are many excellent books about the 1968 campaign.

Two books focus solely on the Kennedy campaign.  Witcover details the behind-the-scenes action leading up to, and taking place throughout the Kennedy campaign.  Clarke captures the passion and excitement of the campaign trail.

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Theodore H. White defined presidential campaign reporting and his 1968 edition covers both parties in detail.

This 1960 edition is viewed as one of the most important political books of the 20th century.

 

 

 

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Joe McGinnis wrote this seminal work on how Nixon adapted modern advertising techniques to shape his candidacy.  Nixon’s comeback after losing in 1960 and losing again in the 1962 California gubernatorial race was well-planned.

The key person behind Nixon’s strategy? Roger Ailes, late of Fox News.  Thanks to Dick Drew, former owner of CKAY Radio in Duncan, BC, for recommending this book to me.

 

Julia’s scrapbook:

And finally, the full Julia McDonald scrapbook view.  The giraffe gets a lot of attention:

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Two maps: the cultural divide in the US and UK

There has been much discussion about the ‘divides’ in the US election.  Race, gender, and income status all play a part.  I would add a cultural divide between Cities and beyond the Cities, which revealed itself in the US election and also in Brexit.  In both elections, the popular vote was very close nation-wide but very concentrated (either way) at the local levels.

US presidential results by County:

Democrats mainly concentrated in big cities and university districts with notable exceptions of black and hispanic voting clusters, and some rural Democrats (eg. Vermont).  In Democratic states like Washington, Oregon, and Illinois, you see the polarization where most of the geography went Trump while the major cities went with Hillary.

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Brexit results:

Focusing on England itself, it was London (Remain) versus the countryside and regional cities (Leave).

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Source: Vancouver Sun

Trump can win, but Hillary will win (not!)

UPDATE, The Morning After:

After laying out all the reasons why Trump could win (for months and months), I blatantly ignored that evidence and confidently predicted (below) a decisive Clinton victory.  The power of conventional wisdom and the ‘echo chamber’ was never greater than the past week in US election politics, only to be overcome by the voters who ultimately decide.  For a matter of minutes, each voter is in charge – in the privacy of the voting booth. Each voter is equal – a single mother in Michigan or retiree in Pennsylvania has the same weight as a Hollywood celebrity or Wall Street trader.  And the voters have proved, again, that they are very much in charge.

ORIGINAL POST:

Can Trump win?  That’s the question on everyone’s mind.

Yes he can – he has a pathway.  But I’m betting that Hillary Clinton will be the 45th President of the United States and it won’t be that close.  In fact, I have put my money where my mouth is by betting $5 through BC Lottery Corporation’s online election pool (expires at 4pm Tuesday).

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45th and 42nd Presidents of the USA

First, a few starting points to consider when watching the results:

  1. It takes 270 electoral votes to win.  Just because a candidate wins the popular vote doesn’t mean they win the electoral college.  Clinton gaining a higher popular vote in Texas or running up the margin in California is meaningless in terms of electoral votes.  She needs to win states.
  2. There has been a lot of early voting in places like Florida, where early turnout was much higher than 2012 and mostly before the FBI bombshell.  That mitigates late-campaign swings to some extent.
  3. The electoral map is always in a state of flux.  In 1960, the GOP won California and Washington and the Democrats won Texas and most of the South.  This election, we will see some states switch allegiances (in both directions) compared to recent elections.
  4. No candidate in recent memory has been as much of a disruptor as Donald Trump.  He is using social media as blunt-force trauma compared to Hillary Clinton’s better-resourced, data-driven approach.  Trump has ‘macro-targeted’ and his winning scenario is moving non-university degree white voters en masse.
  5. How many times have we been surprised lately?  Justin Trudeau’s majority, NDP in Alberta, Jeremy Corbyn as UK Labour leader (twice), David Cameron’s majority then Brexit, the rise of Bernie, and the rise of Trump.  The people will make up their own mind, thank you very much.  Many voters simply don’t cooperate with polls.  Will ‘cranky won’t says’ make the difference?  That would be good for Trump.

The best available information

Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina says the Democrats have run 63,000 simulations every night since Obama’s first run for president.  The data available to the Democrats and the GOP is the product of hundreds of millions, if not, billions of dollars of investment.  The public polls may be indicative but, obviously, not wholly reliable.  This is why we mere mortals often get surprised.

Let’s take a look at the work of those trying to figure this out.

> Nate Silver 538 “Odds in HRC’s favour”

Nate Silver’s 538 website has closely tracked public polls.  He puts the odds at 71.9% Clinton, who he predicts will win about 302 electoral votes.  The New York Times ‘Upshot’ has Clinton’s odds at 84%.

In Silver’s winding road to victory graphic, Clinton crosses 270 in New Hampshire and pads the margin with Nevada, North Carolina, Florida, and the Maine 2nd district.

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> Real Clear Politics “Uncomfortably Close”

Real Clear Politics has Clinton at 203, Trump at 164, and Toss-Ups at 171.  When pushed into a “No Toss Ups” map, RCP has the margin at an incredibly close 272-266.

Huh?  Isn’t Clinton supposed to be further ahead?  RCP has Trump edging Clinton in Ohio, Florida, North Carolina, Iowa, and Arizona.  New Hampshire is in RCP’s Clinton column but has been flipping and flopping all week like a halibut sun bathing on a Boston Whaler.

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Here is the most recent State polling data on Real Clear Politics:

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> USC/LA Times Poll “The Outlier”

This nightly tracking poll (via online panel) has been a consistent outlier for months.   If Trump wins, they are geniuses – they have been about 4-5 points to Trump’s favour consistently compared to most pollsters.  This poll does provide a view of campaign momentum.  The RNC convention (7/25), subsequent self-induced Trump collapse (8/12), Clinton health scare (9/17), Billy Bush tape (10/17), and post FBI surge (today).

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Trump’s pathway

Building on my blog post last week (“Can Hillary lose? Not easily“), here are my revised prognostications going into Tuesday night.

The pathway for Trump to win 270 electoral college votes is not easy.  It would look something like this:

  1. Win all of Romney’s states (206).  Right now, he is forecasted to do that but has been vulnerable in North Carolina (15) and Arizona (11).  He seems to be pulling away in Arizona but NC is a toss up.  Utah is another wildcard where independent Evan McMullin has been in shouting distance of Trump.
  2. Consolidate consistent leads in Obama states (24).  Trump has been leading for a while in two states where Obama triumphed in 2012 – Ohio (18) and Iowa (6).  Now he’s up to 230 total votes with steps #1 and #2.
  3. Win Florida (29).  It would be very, very hard for Trump to win the White House without this state.  The polls are close.  Running total: 259.
  4. Find (11) votes from the following: New Hampshire (4), Maine 2nd district (1), and Nevada (6).  That’s 270 right there in Steps 1-4.  This is very similar to the RCP map above that has Trump at 266 – it’s just missing New Hampshire.
  5. Hail Mary scenario – If Trump’s carpet bombing of previously considered safe Democrat states succeeds, it changes the calculation: Pennsylvania (20) and Colorado (9) could add to or replace Florida’s 29 votes; Michigan (16) or Wisconsin (11) would replace or add to the smaller states in #4 above.  This would be white voters (college education or less) turning out “big time”.  This scenario is a tall order, indeed.

My prediction

I have unreliable data like the rest of you.  So this comes down to a gut feeling. Trump will not win all of the Romney states.  I believe he will lose North Carolina due to my perception of Clinton’s organizational advantage.  I’m shaky on that prediction, but I’m going with it.

Further, I believe Clinton will win Florida due to early voting and organization.  Nevada should also be in Clinton’s column.

Therefore, Trump has 191 Romney votes, plus gains in Ohio (18) and Iowa (6), and I will throw in New Hampshire (4) for a total of 219 votes to Clinton’s 319.  My sense is that the FBI-induced fever that plagued Clinton over the past week broke over the weekend.  Her campaign’s inherent strengths and Trump’s weakness with non-white voters will be a deciding factor in close races.  It will take an uprising in states where there is a higher proportion of white voters to elect Trump, IMHO. I’m betting the surprise on election night will be the size of Hillary Clinton’s margin of electoral votes, not a Trump win.

On Election night, channel flip over to Global TV’s BC1 news channel.  I will be speaking to results with Global’s Keith Baldrey throughout the evening.

The Rosedeer Prediction Map:

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How Utah could elect Trump-Kaine to the White House

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Presidential Wildcard?

Have you ever heard of Evan McMullin?  He’s an independent candidate for president running in Utah and he has a chance of winning the state.  Mormons are not huge fans of Donald Trump.  Top Mormon-Republicans Mitt Romney and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman have openly opposed Trump.

The 40-year old McMullin is a former Republican staffer and former CIA operative. Born and raised in Utah, and a BYU graduate, he can certainly make the claim that he’s a home-grown, Mormon candidate. He likes to say that he was fighting terrorists while Donald Trump was judging beauty pageants.

The latest controversy in Utah is that a white-nationalist group has sent robocall messages into Utah attacking McMullin saying he has a lesbian mother and “two mommies”.  He’s firing back at the RNC and Utah Republicans for supporting these types of attacks (which the RNC has disavowed).  The GOP does, however, see him as a hurdle they need to overcome.

Utah only has 6 electoral votes, so why is it important?

In a very close election, McMullin’s victory in Utah could deny Trump a majority in the electoral college.

Today, RealClearPolitics “no toss up” map forecasts 273 votes for Clinton/Kaine and 265 for Trump/Pence (the inclusion of VP candidates in this discussion is important, further down).

Based on the map below, if Colorado swings to Trump, he would have 274 votes to Clinton’s 264.  However, if Utah goes with McMullin instead of Trump, then it would be: Trump/Pence 268, Clinton/Kaine 264, and McMullin 6. No candidate would reach the magic number of 270 required.

Map: RealClearPolitics “no toss up” forecast (November 2)

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No majority?  Then what happens?

This is where it gets really interesting under the 12th Amendment.  The House of Representatives then elects the president and the only candidates eligible are those that received electoral colleges votes: Trump, Clinton, and McMullin in this scenario.

But it’s not a one member, one vote scenario.  Rather, each state’s delegation receives one vote.  California = Vermont in terms of voting strength.  Crazy rules but they’re stuck with them.

The  Republicans will most likely have a majority in more states than the Democrats .  Representatives can vote for any of the three candidates so it’s highly likely Trump would become president, even if Hillary won more electoral votes (but less than 270).

However, the House is only voting for president, not vice-president.  The Senate elects the vice-president.

There is a reasonable likelihood that the Dems could control the Senate.  Or there could be a tie (in which case Vice President Joe Biden would break the tie since he would still be in office).  RealClearPolitics has the Senate at 47 Dem; 46 GOP and seven toss-ups today.  Thus, there could be a split ticket.  Imagine Trump-Kaine.

In a further constitutional fantasy scenario, House Republicans could choose the ‘real’ conservative, McMullin, and catapult him to the presidency.  Highly, highly improbable, but not unconstitutional.

Another possibility: Faithless Electors

Some states do not require their electors (that comprise the electoral college) to vote for the presidential candidate with the highest popular vote in their state.  In practice, they almost always do.  There have been cases of an elector going astray – a Washington Republican voted for Reagan instead of Ford in 1976, a Minnesota Democrat voted for John Edwards instead of John Kerry.  But those stray votes were not material to the outcome.

It is possible that some electors could abandon their candidate and go another way.  The pressure on them would be massive if they did so, and, indeed, very contrary to the wishes of the voters.

In the final analysis, I think Hillary is going to win though it’s getting pretty uncomfortable, and moreso since my last post.

Yet, as Al Gore knows, anything can happen even after the votes are counted.

 

ps.  A fictional account of electoral college machinations was written by US political journalist Jeff Greenfield in his book “The People’s Choice”.  A good read for inveterate political junkies.

Can Hillary lose? Not easily.

For some months I have sounded the alarm bells that Donald Trump could win the presidency in spite of breaking every rule of conventional politics.  Every time I second guess that opinion, he roars back with another lunge to the throat of the Clinton campaign.

Map: RealClearPolitics “no toss ups” map (October 31)

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Today, RealClearPolitics has it at 304 Clinton, 234 Trump.  This is a significant improvement for Trump over last week.  Nate Silver has upped his odds of a Trump win to about 1 in 5. But of course, this is based on polling data – and there is a litany of polling debacles in recent years.

So what does the map need to look like for Hillary to lose

  • Trump needs to hold all Romney states

Mitt Romney had 206 electoral votes (with 270 required to win).  Right now, Clinton is leading in North Carolina and Arizona, where Romney had prevailed.  If Clinton, holds the lead in those states then Trump is almost certainly finished.

  • Trump needs to add 64 electoral votes from Obama states.

Trump has consistently led in Ohio, which Obama won twice.  That’s 18 votes.  He is close in Iowa (6) and, now, RealClearPolitics has a GOP advantage in Florida (29).  There’s 53 new votes combined.  He may pick up one vote in Maine (1) where it’s one of two states that is not a winner-take-all state.  When added to Romney totals, that’s 260.

The final 10 votes are the hardest.

  • The next closest state would be Nevada, which only has 6 votes, but add Colorado (9) and that puts Trump over the top.  Polling shows that both states are within 4 points.
  • Or, one of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota or Wisconsin.  Polling shows Trump about 6 points off in these states.

It’s not impossible, though it is unlikely. The polling shifts become less and less relevant due to early voting.  Trump leads in Florida but many Floridians have already voted, perhaps locking in a Clinton victory.  Secondly, Clinton has a much stronger ground game. That may make the difference alone.  But Trump supporters have zeal which is a hard thing to measure.  He has defied conventional wisdom and we don’t know how bad (or good) the upcoming week will be for Clinton.  Just when I thought Trump was finished, he continues to haunt this campaign.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe says not to “fret and wet”, that Hillary has a solid 300 votes, and that there is a 100% chance she will win.  So there’s that.

Table 1: Trump pathway to 270

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Holding Romney states (tall order) plus winning states (and districts) where Trump currently leads in the polls equals 260 votes.

Hillary is in a strong position but it is uncomfortably close.

And finally, for reference…

Table 2: US presidential elections since WWII

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The worst performances of presidential candidates

Since WWII, which US presidential candidates have had the worst results?

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For months, I have sounded the alarm that Trump had a chance to win.  He defied the pundits by storming the GOP nomination and tapping into a rich vein of populist resentment.  He had a bump in the polls following the RNC convention.  He had a terrible August but rebounded following Hillary Clinton’s fainting episode in September.  He stayed surprisingly competitive in Ohio and Florida.  He now seems to have come crashing down. Though I think some wooden stakes should be kept on hand in the event they need to be driven through his political heart.

As Chart 1 shows, there has been a lot of volatility between the Democrats and GOP over time.  However, in the past five elections, the Democrats’s worst showing was 48.3% in 2004.  During that time, the GOP has only been above 48.3% once – in 2004 with George W.

Chart 1: Presidential popular vote (1948-2012)

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The worst presidential candidate results, by popular vote, since WWII have been:

  • 1992 – George HW Bush (37.4%) – vote was split by Ross Perot (18.9%)
  • 1972 – George McGovern (37.5%)
  • 1964 – Barry Goldwater (38.5%)

In fact, they are the only major presidential candidates to have sunk below 40% during that time.

The top showings since WWII are:

  • 1964 – LBJ (61.1%)
  • 1972 – Richard Nixon (60.7%)
  • 1984 – Ronald Reagan (58.8%)

The worst presidential candidate performances, by electoral college votes, have been:

  • 1984 – Walter Mondale (13)
  • 1972 – George McGovern (17)
  • 1980 – Jimmy Carter (49)
  • 1964 – Barry Goldwater (52)

It’s unlikely that Hillary Clinton will be anywhere near the top results but holding the trend line of the last five Democratic showings will secure victory.

Will Trump continue to slide?  Right now, he is tempting history.  He appears well above historic lows in electoral college votes, in part due to GOP strength in the South and rural states, but his ranking on popular vote could become Goldwater-esque.